Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Playdate Special: Sage, Apple, and Chicken Meatballs

A warm welcome to our new readers! We're so very happy to be able to share this with you, and both grateful and flattered to hear back from readers who are trying these recipes with your friends and families.

We celebrated the launch of this blog with -- what else? -- a dinner party Saturday. Good food, good friends: a perfect pairing. We each prepared a few dishes, some in advance and some on the spot, that made feeding a crowd of nearly 50 a breeze.

The menu featured a few tried-and-true favorites from our playdates: Anna dished up Turkey Chili with Mangoes, Yams with Za'atar, and Pink Pudding, and a friend contributed lemon zucchini bread (which disappeared fast!), a cake sporting our new logo, dips, and the best deviled eggs I've ever had.

I made Lemon Balm Pesto and a few loaves of bread, but decided to take a chance, a wild crazy chance, and make something up. The day of the party.

My first attempt at apple and chicken meatballs last month yielded so-so results. I made one variation with soy sauce and cilantro, another with apple juice and sage, and a third with apple juice and thyme. It came out a little dry, a little too smooth in consistency, a little too boring. Kids were happy, adults saw potential. My testers offered some suggestions, I took notes, and began planning my second attempt.

On Saturday, Anna stopped by with party supplies a few hours before guests were to arrive and found me wrist-deep in ground-up chicken and eyeing the first misshapen meatballs doubtfully. But once the first batch was done, I stopped fretting.

These meatballs were tasty.

More texture, more moisture, and a tiny tease of spice. The meatballs were satisfying solo, but even better with cranberry-apple chutney (from a jar, I freely admit).

Sage, Apple, and Chicken Meatballs

The meatball-making part can be a bit messy. Don't worry about forming perfectly shaped meatballs.

vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup day-old wheat bread, torn into small chunks
1/2 cup apple juice
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2), cut into pieces
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 crisp apple, such as Granny Smith or Honey Crisp, peeled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon curry
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour

Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute a few minutes until softened and fragrant.

Meanwhile, put bread chunks in a small bowl. Pour apple juice over bread chunks and let sit 10 to 15 minutes. Grate half of the apple; squeeze to remove some of the juice. Dice the other half of the apple.
Put onion and garlic mixture in work bowl of food processor. Add chicken and process briefly until chicken is ground into small pieces. Don't overdo it!

Put chicken, onion, and garlic mixture in a large bowl. Add the chopped sage, grated and diced apple, egg, curry, and salt and pepper. Squeeze juice from bread chunks and add bread to the bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Form mixture into meatballs. Put flour in a shallow dish. Form mixture into meatballs, rolling each one in flour to coat. Pan-fry over medium heat, turning often to brown evenly, until thoroughly cooked.
Makes about 30.

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